New option for Md. landslide homeowners

FORT WASHINGTON, Md. (WUSA9) -- For more than two months, more than two dozen Fort Washington, Md. homeowners have been out of their homes, waiting on a fix to a slow-moving landslide threatening their homes.

Prince George's County attributes the landslide to heavy Spring rainfall although homeowners have questioned that conclusion, with some citing years of county negligence.

The county previously proposed, by way of an engineering firm they contracted, a $22 million stabilization effort that would allow all the homeowners to return to their homes. Construction would take at least six months, during which residents would have to find another place to stay.

The other option would be for the county to purchase and condemn all 28 houses.

However Wednesday night, Prince George's County unveiled a new option. It would still require engineers to stabilize the landslide but would also involve purchasing and condemning six houses.

"For us, it stinks. We still lose our house," said Sherry Cullens, whose house is one of the six that would be purchased and condemned under the new $15 million plan.

The county has stressed that they only have $11 million for any of the various options. Further funding would have to come from the state.

"The sense that I get is that they're looking," said Rushern Baker, Prince George's County Executive. "They're trying to find $11 million, but it's hard."

Perhaps the only thing harder is being in Sherry Cullen's shoes, forced out of the home that her and her husband once had plans for.

"We bought this home in 2008 hoping that we'd be there for a very long time. Me and my husband just got married, we were starting our family - our kids and we were hoping that maybe even one day that our grand kids would come visit. But some other house, I suppose," said Cullens, fighting back tears.

The county has encouraged homeowners - who have hired their own engineering firm, attorneys and public relations spokesperson - to come up with their own options.

"The residents are very savvy. If they've come up with a way that we have not seen, we're going to be open to it," said Baker.

But one of the homeowner's main priorities is something the county has not been able to offer due to safety concerns:

"Allowing all the residents of the community to remain in their homes before, during and after the project is complete," explained Mike Kutzleb, another Piscataway Drive homeowner.

"We would all like that to happen but I don't think that's possible," admitted Baker.

On this unstable ground, Baker stresses that the county is aiming for the middle ground.

"I think they're trying, I really do," admitted Cullens. "We would love to stay in our house. we would. We love the house, the area, the neighbors are fantastic, but if this is the road they're going to take, if this is what's best for the entire community then at least pay us fairly for our house and let us move on.

Next week, Baker will meet with the homeowners' representatives to discuss and consider new ideas the homeowners have come up with.


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